Kapler continues his pursuit of a return
Outfielder comes out of retirement for another shot in Majors
PHOENIX -- Gabe Kapler doesn't question his decision to quit baseball more than a year ago, and he certainly doesn't question the decision to come back.The thoughtful 32-year-old outfielder is attempting a return to active duty with the Brewers this spring after spending last summer managing in the Minor Leagues. He's in camp on a non-guaranteed contract. "Personally, I don't believe in wrong decisions," Kapler said. "I believe every decision is the right decision, and that some just take you down a different path. Sometimes you may go back and say, 'That was an emotional decision.'" His decision to call it quits fell into the "emotional" category. The announcement came in December 2006, when Kapler was coming off a difficult season spent recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He headed the following summer to Greenville, S.C., to manage Boston's Class A South Atlantic League affiliate. Now that he's back in the game, is he back for good? Or is this a one-year experiment? "It's foolish for me to make predictions," Kapler said. "I have a history of trying to predict things, and I'm not going to do it this time. I'm just going to enjoy the process.
"I am 100 percent confident that I have the athletic capability to do this and not just get by. Once I am comfortable, I feel I have the ability to really make an impact."
Kapler insists his brief retirement was not the wrong decision, even though he was only 31 years old and knew he could probably still play. He looked at it as a business plan, and plotted ahead where he would move in the managerial ranks.He enjoyed the experience, especially the off-field interaction with young players. They talked about baseball, of course, but also about movies, books and life. One problem. By the end of the season, Kapler still felt the itch to play. "I think I always knew I could still play. I had offers to go play," he said. "It wasn't about that. Toward the end of the year I started thinking about, 'Do I still want to play?'" He did. When Brewers general manager Doug Melvin learned Kapler wanted to play again, he showed interest. Melvin had tried to lure Kapler before. "Every year," manager Ned Yost said with a laugh. "Doug likes him. I can see why. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played." Melvin and Kapler have a history. In November 1999, the 24-year-old Kapler was among eight players swapped between Detroit and Texas in the Juan Gonzalez blockbuster. Melvin, who was the Rangers' GM at the time, also picked up Francisco Cordero, another player he would later bring to Milwaukee. Kapler was a 57th-round Draft pick for Detroit in 1995, but by the time of the trade he was a bona fide prospect. Kapler had a monster year for Double-A Jacksonville in 1998, batting .322 with 28 home runs and 146 RBIs, then spent most of 1999 with the Tigers and hit .245 with 18 homers.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.